Investors appeared pleased that President-elect Barack Obama's aides were assembling a two-year stimulus plan that could cost $850 billion. The package would include new jobs, middle-class tax relief and expanded aid for the poor and the unemployed. A stimulus for U.S. consumers became an especially high priority earlier this month, when the Labor Department reported that U.S. employers slashed more than half a million jobs in November.
Wall Street also reacted well Thursday to FedEx Corp.'s announcement that quarterly profit rose 3 percent, and that the shipper plans to cut costs.
The economy's troubles, however, are far from over, and the market remains unsure how steep and prolonged the recession will be.
On Thursday, the Labor Department is expected to report that new claims for unemployment benefits slipped to 558,000 last week, according to a survey of economists by Thomson Reuters — but that figure is still near last week's 26-year high of 573,000.
Ahead of the market's open, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 66, or 0.75 percent, to 8,845. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 3.50, or 0.39 percent, to 906.50, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 1.75, or 0.14 percent, to 1,230.25.
On Wednesday, the Dow fell nearly 100 points as enthusiasm over the Federal Reserve's historic rate cut Tuesday dampened on news of a larger-than-expected loss at Morgan Stanley and layoffs at Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. and Newell Rubbermaid Inc.
In early trading Thursday, long-term Treasury prices rose, sending yields down to new record lows.
The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.
Light, sweet crude rose 56 cents to $40.62 a barrel in electronic premarket trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In other company news, homebuilder Lennar Corp.'s quarterly loss was smaller than last year's. Ingersoll-Rand Co. cut its fourth quarter earnings forecast by more than half, while motor home maker Winnebago Industries Inc. swung to a loss.
Markets overseas were mostly higher. Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.64 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.24 percent. In midday trading, Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.12 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 0.74 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.85 percent.